Qatar-UAE talks show signs of slow but ‘positive’ progress

“With the UAE, the committees held several meetings … and we sensed from the working teams a positive vision to overcome differences,” the Qatari FM minister said.
Monday 31/05/2021
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani meets with his Egyptian counterpart at Tahrir Palace in Cairo, on May 25, 2021. (AFP)
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani meets with his Egyptian counterpart at Tahrir Palace in Cairo, on May 25, 2021. (AFP)

DUBAI – Qatar has held several rounds of talks with the United Arab Emirates to mend fences following an agreement to end an inter-Arab feud and there is a “positive vision” to overcome differences, the Qatari foreign minister said.

Saudi Arabia in January announced a deal to end the row in which the kingdom, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed all ties with Qatar in 2017 over accusations it supports terrorism, a charge that it denies.

Diplomats and regional sources have said Riyadh and Cairo were moving faster than the UAE and Bahrain to rebuild the relationship with Doha.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told the UK-based Al Araby television in an interview aired on Friday that it was natural for talks to have different paces.

He said there has been positive progress in talks with Saudi Arabia, which Qatar’s emir visited recently and with Egypt, where Sheikh Mohammed held talks last week. He said Qatar was discussing economic cooperation with both countries.

“With the UAE, the committees held several meetings … and we sensed from the working teams a positive vision to overcome differences,” the minister said. He said the last round was held a few weeks ago and he was also in touch with Emirati officials.

“It could take some time to move past this difficult period,” he added.

The UAE and Egypt oppose Qatari support for Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed by all four states.

Asked whether the topic of the Brotherhood had been discussed with Egypt, Sheikh Mohammed said, “This file was not brought up as far as I know.”

“We do not have many outstanding issues with Egypt and there is positive progress,” he said without elaborating, while noting coordination between the two countries to secure a ceasefire brokered by Egypt in the Gaza Strip.

The UAE and Egypt resent Qatari support for Islamist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood.

The two states perceive political Islam and the influence of the Brotherhood as an existential threat.

The UAE, which has an ideological and regional rivalry with fellow major oil and gas producer Qatar, has earlier said rebuilding trust will take time.

Relations remain mired in animosity and geopolitical differences including over the presence of Islamist-supporting Turkey in the region.

“Those ideological and political divisions won’t disappear overnight,” said Kristin Diwan, senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

“Still, there are signs that both sides are weary of the proliferating battles and more willing to cut losses, especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.”